Universal Pictures (Universal), a subsidiary of NBCUniversal (NBCU), indirectly belongs to the media conglomerate, Comcast. Universal ranks as one of the “Big Six” film studios. Universal Studios has two main film divisions, Universal Pictures and Focus Features. Universal, which is the primary motion picture and distribution arm for Universal Studios, has numerous partnerships for co-productions, acquisitions, and films. Universal possesses an extensive film catalog ranging from Jurassic Park to Bridesmaids, and owns many popular film franchises, including Back to the Future and Fast and Furious .
In 1912, Carl Laemmle founded Universal Film Manufacturing Company by merging with five other film companies . Emigrating from Germany to the United States, Mr. Laemmle became a leading film distributor. Unfortunately, the financial setback from a streak of unsuccessful films forced Mr. Laemmle to sell the company. It was not until the 1960s that Universal returned to prominence .
Comcast is a publicly traded company with two publicly traded classes of stock, CMCSA and CMCSK. With the release of its third quarter earnings, Universal was the first studio to have three film releases exceed $1 billion in worldwide box office receipts in the same year. In third quarter 2015, revenue from films increased from $1,186,000,000 to $1,946,000,000 compared to third quarter 2014 . Executives attribute this success to the strong box office receipts of its billion-dollar blockbusters, Jurassic World and Minions .
NBCU increased its operating cash flow for its filmed entertainment by 149.5%, from $151 million in its 2014 third quarter to $376 million in its 2015 third quarter. This higher revenue was partially affected by increasing marketing and promotional costs, and larger amortization costs. For the nine-month period ending September 30th, 2015, NBCU reported a 52.4% increase in film revenues to $5,658,000,000 in 2015 .
Executives reported that despite fewer theatrical releases during the fourth quarter, NBCU’s film division will continue to perform well as its films are released to home entertainment and content licensing windows .
FALL 2015 RELEASESM. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit was released on September 11th, 2015. The Visit is a found footage horror film about two siblings who visit their grandparents and notice strange things about them. Shyamalan self-funded the film’s budget of $5 million . Opening weekend, The Visit made approximately $25 million and overall the film earned $65 million domestically . This film marks Shyamalan’s return after multiple flops for several years. Based on the 1980s cartoon, Jem and the Holograms, was Universal’s biggest flop of the year. The film, directed by Jon M. Chu, is about a small-town girl who rises to fame. Despite a production budget of $5 million, it grossed only $2 million domestically. The film did even worse internationally, only making $70,571 . The film opened in 2,413 theaters and made $1,375,320, which averages $570 per theater making it the third worst opening weekend for a widely released feature film . The creative decision for the film backfired as the target audience was unfamiliar with Jem, and it did not connect with past fans. After two weeks, Universal pulled Jem from theaters to mitigate losses . Given the film’s low budget, the impact is nominal. Steve Jobs was another flop for Universal. The biopic film of the late Steve Jobs had a limited released on October 9th, 2015 followed by a wide release two weeks later. Its production budget was $30 million, but the film only grossed $17.5 million domestically . Steve Jobs featured a star-studded cast including Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, but even this star power did not help the box office gross . Given disappointing performance, Steve Jobs was pulled from over 2,000 theaters . Some critics attribute the film’s failure to not opening wide from the start . There is slim hope that Steve Jobs will be an Oscar contender . Angelina Jolie Pitt wrote, directed, produced, and stars in By the Sea along with Brad Pitt. The film follows a couple whose relationship is falling apart. This is Jolie Pitt’s third feature film . On November 5th, there was a world premiere at the American Film Institute Festival . A week later, it opened in ten theaters and earned $96,250. To date, the film has earned $364,584 domestically due to its limited release. Even accounting for worldwide revenue, the film is not close to recovering its $10 million budget . Although Universal is unlikely to recover its budget, it is likely betting that Jolie Pitt will star in Bride of Frankenstein given the studio’s backing of her film .
2015 Year End Releases
The final films of 2015 for Universal are Krampus on December 4th and Sisters on December 18th . Krampus is a horror-comedy starring Adam Scott and Toni Collette. Krampus is about a demonic force that punishes non-believers . Contrarily, Sisters is a comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. The film is about two sisters who throw a final party at their childhood home . Both films are being heavily marketed as the holiday season brings competition.
Ride Along 2 starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart will be Universal’s first release of 2016 . The first film grossed over $100 million in revenue domestically justifying the green light for this sequel .
Fourteen years after the release of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Universal is set to release My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 on March 22nd . All the stars from the first movie returned for the sequel. The first film was extremely successful, given a budget of $5 million and a domestic gross exceeding $240 million .
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. Charlize Theron reprises her role as the evil Queen Ravenna, and Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman. Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain also star . Set for release on April 22nd, the film is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan .
LOOK OUT FOR
Universal has announced M. Night Shyamalan’s new suspense thriller, Split, starring James McAvoy. The film, which is another collaboration with Blumhouse Productions, is set for release on January 20th, 2017 .
F. Gary Gray, director of Straight Outta Compton, has signed on to direct Furious 8 . Preproduction has already commenced, and production will begin in April 2016. The entire cast is expected to return. Fast and Furious has been one of Universal’s most successful franchises with Furious 7 grossing over $1 billion worldwide .
Following her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2, Elizabeth Banks will direct Pitch Perfect 3 featuring some of the original cast. The franchise has been a success globally with the second film grossing $286 million worldwide .
The Mummy was remade in 1999  and followed by sequels in 2001  and 2008 . All three films grossed over $400 million worldwide . However, the third film was largely panned. Currently, Tom Cruise is rumored to star in the 2017 reboot of The Mummy . Universal is hoping to use The Mummy to relaunch a new era of monster films.
With its library and continued production, Universal will remain a major studio.
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